Learn Their Interests

What You'll Learn
  • The time to talk interests is after rapport is established
  • Avoid over disclosing your interests

You don't want to assert your positions in the Exchange Stage. You are building a relationship and discovering critical information, not making demands. This is where you talk interests, not positions.

Positions:  What they say they want

Interests:  Why they want it

The time to talk interests is after rapport is established and trust is emerging, and before you negotiate an agenda for bargaining.

Why do you want to learn their interests early, before stating any position?

When the other side explains their interests, you:

Trouble learning their interests and BATNAs?

Don't be surprised if the other side does not fully disclose their interests or their alternative options. There must be a certain degree of trust established before people will reveal their true motivating factors or their contingency plans. If you don't have a clue what their interests really are, try more rapport building.

Consider: Are they waiting for an apology?

Is this a mea culpa moment where an acknowledgment of one’s fault or error is appropriate?  You or your predecessor or your company may have done something that eroded trust in the relationship. The originating causes can be diverse in character: slight or major; personal or organizational; obvious or unnoticed; offensive or costly.

It is natural for someone to hold back when a trust issue remains unresolved. Watch for clues and Probe. You may hear about:

  • A quality issue that was technically compliant but caused trouble for your customer;
  • An offensive remark of one of your team members; or
  • A late payment that cost your supplier dearly.

Common wisdom is “Just apologize, and they’ll move on.” Maybe true in life, but in negotiations, the apology needs to be effective to rebuild the level of trust critical for people to share their interests.

Key ingredients of an effective, heartfelt apology:

Sign for Apology

  • Saying you are "Sorry"
  • Price of entry: Listen, understand, and show understanding!
  • 3 standard essentials: Show regret, take responsibility and ask for forgiveness
  • Lasting Fix: Determine what solution will allow trust to grow. Three most common are a need for empathy, compensation, or acknowledgment of violated norms. Just fix it!
  • Public or Private wrong warrants a corresponding apology. If the wrong was private, a private apology is fine. If the wrong was public and exposed the other person, be sure to make your apology equally public.

At a minimum, you need to know enough to determine if interests are aligned. If you have enough data and insight to see a potential fit, you can proceed. If you don't have enough information to determine alignment of interests, not to worry - you'll learn more about their interests when you negotiate the agenda as you see their priorities and preferences. You'll also learn more about their interests in Bargaining when you Probe for information to support their proposal.

Indicating you have BATNAs

During the Exchange Stage you may find it is the right time to begin letting the other side know you have BATNAs. You will determine in the Bargaining Stage if and when to reveal those BATNAs.

Introducing a BATNA can easily sound threatening. For example, "We're glad to meet you in this process where we're exploring our supplier options." If received by your supplier as a threat, such a statement can become an obstacle to creative bargaining. Be more vague with the same message and you are likely to find your counterpart more open to understanding your interests and to revealing their own.

  • The Exchange Stage is about getting and giving information.

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